Ubud Essentials

The promised Ubud post is finally here! I will get straight to it.

Where to stay:
Ubud is a lovely town about an hour (+30mins) from Denpasar. Aptly named the cultural hub of Bali, Ubud has plenty to offer from indie art shops to white water rafting. That said, the main attraction is the Monkey Forest and I recommend staying close to it for the simple reason that it opens into the Ubud Market. There are two entrances to the Monkey Forest – essentially you can go in from one side of Ubud and get out from the exit in the local market. We stayed on the quieter side but the walk to the market (a narrow lane around the forest perimeter) took just 7 minutes. You can check out the property here. It’s a big house with a lovely garden, an open shower in the upstairs bedroom, a quaint balcony and a beautiful view of the rice fields.

Food:
Though I am a vegetarian and on my way to becoming vegan, I recommend a nice long walk in the Ubud Market if you are looking for cafés with a good music scene. I recommend drinking local – I did enjoy their local beer (Bintang) despite harbouring a strong preference for pale ales. There’s a cute corner restaurant at the entrance (non-market) of the Monkey Forest that has a total hippie music scene. Check their board for announcements. Other than that, here are my recommended restaurants for vegetarian food near Rumah Buda.

  1. Sage Cuisine
    Address: 
    Jl. Nyuh Bulan No. 1, Banjar Nyuh Kuning, Ubud, MAS, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
    Phone: +62 361 976528
    I recommend: Pancakes, Coconut coffee, and Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl
  2. Trattoria
    Address: Jalan Nyuh Bojog, Desa Nyuh Kuning, Ubud, MAS, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
    Open: 8AM–11PM
    Phone: +62 811-399-241
    I recommend: Farm Pizza, Tomato Basil sandwich (it’s a double panini, very filling, and totes-delish). The omelette is served with toast and blue-berry jam (LOVED IT!) Oh and the coffee is good too. Trattoria is a chain and you can find it in Kuta as well. The staff is pleasant and accommodating.

Definitely try the gelato parlours in the Ubud market. I recommend the local mangosteen (I liked the tea) but I am not a big fan of the local coconut flavour in ice-cream.

Shopping

  1. Dream Catchers: I don’t even know where to begin. You will find massive ones in almost every shop. For the big ones (with three rings), your upper limit is IDR200,000. If you are making a single purchase, I doubt you will be able to command this price. So try to club it with something else. They generally quote IDR350,000 for these.
  2. Earrings: The tiny ones just bigger than studs in sterling silver are quoted at IDR100-150000. Pay no more than IDR50,000.
  3. Kimonos: I have wanted them since I took up Japanese at age 15. When I saw how much they cost in an Asian Shop in Amsterdam, I gave up on the dream. There are two types – satin and silk (or so they say). Satin comes with a lining and is slightly coarse. They quote IDR180,000 in Kuta/Legian so if you can’t get a good price in Ubud, wait till you get to Kuta. The silk ones are soft and dreamy – quoted at IDR350,000, can be brought down to IDR230,000 after a LOT of haggling.
  4. Carved wooden idols: We have a mini elephant collection now. In different sizes. Negotiate up to IDR 100,000 for a decently sized elephant. You can also find lovely Ganesha idols along with the Buddha ones. Club your purchases for a good deal

Shopping Tip: Go when the market opens. The fewer the people, the better the negotiations. The sellers will bring the rates down if you aren’t surrounded by a crowd because they don’t want others to ask for the same price!

What to do in and around Ubud:

  1. Kintamani Tour – Covers Mt. Batur, the rice fields, a coffee plantation, and Tampaksiring. If you choose to do the hike, you will have to find a tour operator in the market. I believe you have to leave ~2am for the sunrise trek. Parking and toll cost IDR95,000 and entry is IDR80,000. You can buy lava paintings from local artists in the temple grounds. They are actually made from crushing the rocks of Mt. Batur.
  2. Mt. Agung – This is the other trek. If you choose not to do the trek, you can drive to see Pura Besakih (the biggest temple). Sarongs and offerings are compulsory if you wish to enter the temple. If you don’t bring either, you’ll be restricted to the outer area of the temple which is a total bummer after the climb. Tip! Scooters will take you up for free but will charge IDR10,000 for the ride down to the parking lot. You can pay to use the loos (or buy something from the local shops in which case they don’t charge to use the loo) but I recommend you avoid them and save yourself from a UTI.
  3. Tampaksiring – The Holy Water Temple. Sarongs are included in the ticket cost but you are not allowed to get them wet. So, if you are planning to take a dip in the holy water fountain, bring your own sarong and en extra set of clothes. Tie your hair! You won’t be permitted inside the inner temple if you don’t.
  4. Monkey Forest – Honestly, I am not a big fan of monkeys. I definitely do not like the idea of being outnumbered by animals that like to jump on you and grab things out of your hand. But if you are up for a nice long walk in a wonderfully preserved reserve, head out early when it isn’t too crowded.
  5. Puri Saren Royal Palace – It isn’t really a palace tbh. Just a small courtyard with some photo-ops. I liked the one-hour long Legong Dance. It starts at 7:30 but I advise getting there early and taking up the pseudo-balcony seats in the back. Ticket costs IDR100,000
  6. Goa Gajah Caves – Lovely landscaped gardens. Ticket costs IDR20,000. You can easily spend an hour here. Don’t shop in the market. The rates are higher than the Ubud Market.
  7. Setia Dharma House of Masks – Understated. That’s all I can say about the buzz for this place. Our driver didn’t even know about it but I insisted that he take us there. I loved it. There is no entrance ticket but a donation box is placed outside the last display hall. Beautiful gardens ♥ We didn’t sit down in the café but it looked nice. There are plenty of toilets here and they are CLEAN.
  8. ARMA – Agung Rai Museum of Art. Ticket costs IDR80,000 and includes a welcome drink. You will find artists and students creating stone sculptures and paintings in the gardens. Set aside an hour or more for this museum.
  9. Gili Islands –  I wasn’t looking to party so I didn’t go. But you can check for rates in the market. They will undoubtedly be high. Check with your hotel / hostel / AirBnB if they can score you a good deal.
  10. Massages – Plenty of options in the market. Foot massages and reflexology start at 15 mins and go up to an hour. Fully body massage is offered in 30m – 1h – 2hr schedules. Rates vary depending on establishment. I suggest taking a walk in the market while you enjoy your gelato. Ask around for rates and check hygiene before you select one.

IMHO:

  • BUY a sarong instead of renting one. Even though all travel guides (incl. Lonely Planet) and the boards outside the temples state that sarongs AND/OR decent clothes are permitted, they will insist on sarongs. I ditched my pants after Day 2 coz it was annoying to wrap a sarong around full length pants. So, wear your shorts and carry a sarong along.
  • Halve every quote like I said in my last post. Check everything you buy for tears and/or breaks.
  • Ditch the Blanco Renaissance Museum. The ticket was way too overpriced for the sparsely covered mansion. I would rather have spent more time in ARMA.
  • If you wish to trek, see the temples, and go to Gili Island budget a week in Ubud. There’s no way you can get everything done in less than 7 days. It will be way too exhausting.

Up Next: I will post the promised itinerary next. I thought it would be better to get this detailed post out first. Stay tuned, my peeps! ♥

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Bali: Arrival – Stay – Money – and more!

I am moving soon and I wanted a short holiday that required minimum planning. Air Asia answered my prayers by announcing discounted tickets! Bali is gaining traction as a popular holiday destination from India and after spending a week there, I can see why! So here’s everything you need to know about booking your holiday. Trust me, you don’t need a travel agent 🙂

Getting There: Keep an eye out for promotions. Air Asia announces discounted fares multiple times a year. For example: Late May through early June, return air fares were going at approx. INR 15,000. Soon after they shut this promotion, they opened another for travel dates starting from January 2018. So, book your tickets early.

Visa: VoA (for 30 days) for almost all nationalities. There was a USD35 charge for VoA until a few years ago. VoA is now FREE! All you need is a return ticket to show the immigration officers and you are good to go. Oh, the Bali officers won’t even bother to ask. It is only the officers in India who might question you about your return date.

Stay: Are you a first timer? Do you care about arts and crafts? How fit are you? Do you like adventure sports? Are you just looking for a spa holiday? Is this a bachelorette plan? Well, where you should stay depends on your answers to the above questions. I split my stay between Ubud and North Kuta (~Canggu). I picked Ubud first because I wanted to be closer to the airport towards the end of my stay – just in case of emergencies. If you are all about hiking, the local arts, and some quiet time – head to Ubud without a second thought. The drive from Denpasar airport to Ubud takes roughly 1-1.5 hours and costs IDR300,000. If you decide to stay on the beaches of Kuta/Legian/Seminyak, be prepared for crowds and constant partying. The drive should cost approx. IDR100,000 and will take 30-40 mins. depending on traffic.
For backpackers, there are plenty of good hostels around. I picked two beautiful AirBnBs and was far from disappointed. More about that in my detailed posts for Ubud and Kuta coming up soon.

Money: The easiest currency to convert is USD. There are ATMs in Bali but I do not recommend using them due to widespread news of cards being compromised later. Go hard cash! Sadly, HDFC/Axis/etc. do not supply Indonesia Rupiah either on card or cash. And the exchange rates are terrible anyway. I decided to go with BookMyForex this time and was happy with the service. All you need to do is fill out the online form – you can see the exchange rate and decide the amount you wish to convert. You will soon receive a confirmation email along with an intimation to send over the required documents: copy of passport data page, flight tickets, copy of visa (not required for Bali), and your PAN card. On approval of these documents, they will connect you to your nearest forex provider – in my case it was Orient Forex in town. The forex provider will send you the bank details for transfer [for amounts > INR 50,000 NEFT/IMPS is mandatory. For lower amounts, cash is accepted]. Their TAT is 4 hours but since NEFT takes longer, they recommend IMPS if you wish to receive the currency the same day.
In Bali, you will find “Money Changers” on every street. We converted within the range of IDR12,900 to IDR 13,270 per USD. I do not recommend converting at the airport. Step out into the city and find a money changer. You are bound to get a better rate. Heads up! Be wary of money changers in Kuta/Legian/Nusa Dua/Benoa. They will display ridiculous rates and cheat you. We saw offers going up to IDR13,899 when the actual rate was IDR13,200 per USD.

Getting Around: Hire a scooter. It is the most economical mode of transport in Bali. Rentals are approx. IDR 11,000 per hour which translates to ~INR 55. Can’t get cheaper than that! Tours in Ubud (with pick up and drop) for 8 hours cost IDR 600,000 if you negotiate well with your AirBnB affiliated driver. They tend to cost higher in the market. Tours in North Kuta for 10 hours cost IDR 550,000 but I believe you can negotiate further. If you are travelling in a moderately large group, the car (with driver) is a great option considering the cars seat 5 – 6 adult passengers.

Food: Total paradise for meat eaters. Not so great for vegetarians and vegans. It is difficult to explain the concept of vegetarian because they tend to include eggs and sometimes even fish in vegetarian diets! That said, we did find some great restaurants and cafés that customised their menu for us. If you don’t find one that is willing to accommodate your requests, stick to Fries, Onion Rings, Nasi Goreng, and Nasi Campurr.

Shopping: Halve every quote you receive! Repeat that after me. Bali is all about bargaining skills. And they don’t resent you for shooting down their offer price. So, don’t be ashamed to quote a ridiculously lower price. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by huge dreamcatchers, carved wooden elephants, stone Buddha statues, and silk kimonos. Check out my upcoming posts for where to shop and how much to pay ♥♥


Up Next: Ubud in 3 days